15 Common SEO Mistakes (part 1)

by Paul Wilson


Recently, I wrote about seeding your blog footer. This is a little experiment of mine, which adds content to the footer to help further focus the keywords found on MyMarketer.

This case study is still going, but one of the footer seeds I have is the top search marketing mistakes. I display both Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization mistakes, but only have 10 mistakes for each focus.

When I compiled the list of mistakes I had a much longer list than 20, but footer seeds are suppose to be condensed posts and thus many search mistakes on my long  list had to fall to the wayside.

For SEO I had 46 common mistakes, and I kept the list for the day I could spend the time writing about each one. I was hoping that today was going to be that day, but after many attempts I realized I didn’t have enough time to write all 46 into one post. So, here is the first post of a series of three posts which share my insights on each mistake. Let me know if you can think of any more. ~Paul W.

1. Unoptimized title tags

I was interviewed once for a marketing job and was asked what the single most important SEO task I should do first on a website. I gave sophisticated answer after sophisticated answer in hopes I would cover what they felt was most important. Unfortunately, I failed to state a page’s title tag, because it was so basic to me. It was like saying what is the most important thing about blogging, which the correct answer would be to blog. Optimizing your title tags should be what you do when working on your article or page’s actual title. Having the word “HOME” as your title tag tells your visit (be it a person or a search engine bot) absolutely nothing about your website. Always, always, always do your keyword research and let that keyword research shine most in your title tag. This doesn’t mean to stuff your tag with keywords, but rather to make your keyword reflect what your post or page is about. (Incidentally, I didn’t get the job)

2. Spammy backlinks

I’ve talked about this in other post, and unfortunately spammy badlinks are a mistake I have been guilty of in the past. It is just so easy to snort bad links because they give your site a buzz….for the short run. Using spammy tactics puts you in a position of always looking over shoulder wondering if (or when) the search engines are going to find out about your addiction. I’m now of the opinion that if you are going to build something, build it so it withstands the elements. Build it in a manner that links flow to it, instead of having to game the system in order for people to believe your website is of any value!

3. Meta keywords

– I know you see the option to add meta keywords to your website, but trust me they are dead. Seriously, we had a funeral for them in 2001. Just because you weren’t there doesn’t mean they are not stone cold dead and six feet beneath the earth! Now this doesn’t mean all your meta tags are dead. Your meta description and your meta title are still extremely important. Just don’t waste your time on adding your keywords to your meta keywords.

4. Unoptimized URLs

This is a tricky one, because not optimizing your urls doesn’t mean you will not rank. Just look at the largest webmaster forum Digital Point. They rank on everything and they don’t optimize their URLs. However, it does help and Matt Cutts has stated several times about the importance of it. WordPress offers you the ability to use permalinks. Using the default for permalinks (http://example.com/?p=123) gives you unoptimized option. I usually like to select the customized option and add the post ID and the post name (http://example/post_id/postname/ or the wordpress code /%post_id%/%postname%/). This allows your database to quickly distinguish between a page and post and is particularly helpful if you plan to have a large amount of content.

5. Poor content

There are several classifications when it comes to poor content. There is the poor content that Google’s Panda update addressed. This was the spammy keyword rich content that had no substance and was completely created for the search bots. Than you have lazy content. We all know this content, and most are guilty of it. It is the content that took little to no thought and is more fluff than anything. It is someone blogging to blog. Just because we can blog doesn’t mean we always should, and often it hurts your branding and SEO efforts more than it helps.

6. Unfocused content

This feeds into the poor content mistake. Yet, it also is one of the most common mistakes, and one of the mistakes I have been paying for these last several years. When I first started blogging on MyMarketer I wrote about my personal, marketing, politics, and really anything that crosses my fancy. When you don’t focus your content you end up bringing an eclectic crowd to your site, and often they are not seeking what you are preaching. Providing a blog pitch (a quasi-like mission statement) can provide a great road map to where you want your blog to end up. If a great post doesn’t fit into your blog pitch then discard it, that’s what facebook is for!

7. Duplicate content

Oh, how duplicate content loves to haunts us. There is a misconception about duplicate content and that is you will get a penalty from the search engines if you have it. Actually, the engines don’t penalize they filter. If they think the content is the same they will just hide it. There are several tricks—some better than others—to overcome this problem when it pertains to just your website (canonical, htaccess, robots.txt). However, it becomes problematic if the duplicate content is two different websites. Lets say a scraper takes your content and adds it to their website as their own. Hopefully, Google is sophisticated enough to realize who is the original author. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The only real solution I have found to fight against these leeches is to use the DMCA. This is a powerful way to legally go after these sites with copyright infringement. It costs ($200), but if you have bottom feeder who has copied your entire website (which I have) sometimes it is the only course of action.

8. Auto generated content

I cannot tell you how I hate to go to a site only to discover the content is an awkwardly worded article that has nothing to do with anything. A lot first time web marketers spin articles in order to provide a lot of content with little effort. The net results are generally lots of bad articles that nobody cares about, which now includes Google. What does it say when you don’t have enough to say that you have to auto generate poor quality articles that only adds to the Internet’s ever growing content trash heap!

9. Slow site speed

Google has openly announced that site speed is a factor in rankings. There is a lot of speculation on how much, and it is anyone’s guess. However, what we don’t have to guess on is that your website speed is important and it is something you should put on your SEO board to watch and stay on top. If you ignore this recommendation it is only a matter of time before you will see that site speed becomes more and more important, and at the same time your site becoming less and less important in the search index.

10. Not Internal Linking

It took my good friend Jimmy to convert me to the importance of internal linking. Before I believed it was a waste of time utilizing your own site authority to lift up other pages on your site…yeah, I was stupid. On one project we worked together on, Jimmy was able to quickly rank several pages on the website by simply linking the pages to the homepage through an anchored text. Literally, in a mere few weeks these pages were ranking on several difficult keywords. Not internal linking is just wasting the natural power your site already has.

11. Poor keyword research

Either poor keyword research or the lack of keyword research all together seems to be one of the biggest problems with new site owners. Understanding the keywords your website best fits with not only helps focus site, but it provides ideas for additional areas for growth. Ultimately, it needs to be understood that keywords are an essential part of the Internet. Everything connects together through keywords. Maybe someday this will change, but right now if you are avoiding keyword research, your connections to your users will be poor at best.

12. Ignoring social media

As much as us old SEO guys hate to admit, social media is the new popular kid, and it can make all the difference to your SEO efforts. According to SEOmoz, social ques have jumped from 2 percent in google’s algorithm to 7 percent. A 5 percent is a hefty jump, and one which will probably grow with time. Ignoring social media, because you don’t understand it could mean death in the future. Exactly what it means to engage with the social web isn’t totally clear, but it doesn’t hurt to take your content and share it on facebook, google+, twitter, youtube, and any other place that allows you to connect with your friends.

13. Broken pages

I wish I could find the article about the Google employee who thought his site was being penalized. When he approached Matt Cutts he learned that the problem was that Google saw a lot of broken pages (aka 404 pages) and therefore decreased the site’s authority. The story taught me that Google does indeed care about your broken pages. The sad thing is that it is not hard to find these pages and take care of them. Google Webmaster offers a simple solution for you to see what backlinks are linking to a broken page on your site. You can do a quick redirect to these pages and instantly increase your authority—easy peasy nice and easy!

14. Not SEOing Flash

I think I have been hearing about the big ugly “unseo” flash monster for a decade now. Making flash seo friendly is actually possible these days, but for the average webmaster it is rarely done. If you want the beauty of flash it is important to also put in the energy to make it so that people can find you in the search engines.

15. Participating in link farms

Participating in link farms is more damaging now these days than in times past. I highly recommend avoiding link farms like an epidemic plague. You may get away with one or two link farms, but the more you hang out with them the more likely you are going to contract their ugly disease of no authority.  Granted this really only applies to Google since Bing seems to love infected spammy website with little to no value (sad but very true).

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